Toni Leago Valle


Artistic Director 6'

Choreographer, Dancer

Professor of Practice, Dance

University of Houston

Company Manager, Karen Stokes Dance


Artist Statement


As Artistic Director and choreographer for 6 Degrees, I create spoken word, theater, aerial, and dance works.  I am driven by the idea that art holds the ability to shift cultural paradigms. By giving varied perspectives on societal and cultural beliefs through my art, I strive to change society’s belief systems that one set of rules should apply to everyone.  I think these belief systems not only lock us into harmful patterns; they keep us closed to the evolution of ideas and behavior, therefore blocking our full potential.  Children, women, men, humans - we are a diverse species with infinite choices, each specific to ourselves. I believe that true change comes from the individual, and by extension, society, and culture.


I have 31 years sober and worked for 7 years in an adolescent treatment center. These life experiences define my art content with two ideas:  1) My art is embedded with the belief that human understanding, interaction, and tolerance is the purpose of human existence and catalyst for growth, and 2) humor is the best medicine.



Why 6 Degrees? (I get asked this all the time.)


My company name, 6 Degrees, and my work reflects the central theme of human connection and relationships as the healing component of human adversity.  Since 1999, I have created and produced nine evening-length concerts and over 30 repertory works on variations of this theme.  My first concert, It’s All Relative (2002), addressed belief systems, archetypes, and the generation gap through the eyes of my Italian family.  CRACKED (2006 and an encore in 2016) tackled how women have been conditioned to obsess on their bodies and sex through family, society, religion, and media enforcement, and the consequences of that conditioning on women. Tetris (2009) portrayed the despair and isolation of a confused generation against a backdrop of the 80-90’s, reflecting on comparisons of life decades ago to current issues of today.  In familiar themes (Why buy the milk when you can have the cow for free?) lies a subtext of fear, a lack of human tolerance and understanding, and mass inertia.  Baptism (2010) and Regifting Lions (2012) asked the question of environmental circumstance vs personal will; why certain individuals can recover from mental and physical illness and others cannot. 


For the past 10 years, I have been troubled by the political process that is systematically stripping us of our basic human rights.  I believe this was possible because there is a general apathy that keeps people from educating and themselves and acting on issues. Government and religious organizations have systematically blocked women’s right to reproductive healthcare and choice, LGBTQ+ rights to love and live life on their own terms, and non-white minorities to live and raise their families without fear of retribution or systemic prejudice.  I debated on how to best address these issues in a voice that people can hear.


“Never Again” (2018) portrayed the Texas Legislation and Women’s and Minorities Rights backlash through a vaudevillian lens, with dark humor and wit.  “POP DEMO” (2023) goes further by investigating how propaganda in politics and the media sways public perspectives on the role of government in our lives. By using art to highlight how politics inform, dictate, and ultimately control our lives, I hope to engage people in a personal conversation on why a large swath of the U.S. population does not vote and how we can change the political discourse to one of engagement.


Join Me.


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